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December 2009
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January 2010

American Idol Proves Anything Sells - As Long As It's A Good Story!

I enjoy watching American Idol to see both the best - and worst of American talent. The show is a smoothly crafted PR machine - and marketers dream. To merely be on the show guarantees viewership of an audience greater than that participating in most American elections!

The story is simple. Show talent - and sell talent - by inviting the audience to become part of the process. But once in a while the show's producers throw us for a loop - as they did in the case of allowing 63 year old civil rights veteran "General" Larry Platt perform his internet sensation hit..."Pants on the Ground."

PantsonthegroundWhen I first saw the clip I cringed at the insanity of allowing this guy to perform on the show. That is, until I read his story. Apparently Platt is a civil rights veteran and has photos of himself alongside such greats as Martin Luther King Jr. He has awards from city and state officials for his social justice work. The song's title is meant to be a jab at young people today who insist on wearing baggy pants. The implication being that they've either forgotten about the past - or know about it and don't take the time to respect the work that was done to protect civil rights.

Platt's song quickly became an internet sensation garnering yet more publicity for both himself - as well as for the show. In a world where instant fame is just a click away, Platt's story is living proof that you can still act like a nutbar...yet still win us over if you have a good story to back it up.

What did you think of Platt's appearance on the show? What about the judge's reaction to the performance? Why is it that the song is such an internet sensation?

Engage Your Audience - Elevate Your Brand!

As a member of Toastmasters International, I used to compete in public speaking competitions. The competitive arena taught me how to read an audience, through both my actions as well as my words. If the audience wasn't engaged, an otherwise great story would have absolutely no effect on them.

I've been to numerous business conferences over the years and am still astounded by the sometimes mediocre level of speaking ability. Some presenters are great, yet others fail to engage and lose the audience after uttering their first word.

EngageIn business, having a great story is half the battle. Conveying that story in an engaging and effective way is the other half of the equation. Hollywood has fine tuned the art of storytelling and has adapted it to suit a mass audience. Think of your favourite movies. Chances are they have a few things in common.

1)  The ability to  make you feel something...some sort of emotion that might relate to a specific situation in your life - past or present

2) Characters who you can identify with - you might have been in a similar situation or have known people just like them...or...perhaps you ARE them

3) A storyline that keeps you engaged and hanging on until the end of the movie. While watching it, you feel as if time has almost been suspended for the moment

The power of stories and storytelling on an audience is timeless. The advertising greats knew this, and constantly strived to establish connections with brands and audiences. Stories enable us to connect with one another in a way that makes us feel valuable and "in the loop." Look at how quickly stories spread over the internet. Who hasn't talked about Tiger Woods around the office cooler - or the antics of the now infamous "balloon boy" father?

To elevate your brand, you must engage your audience. If we don't "feel" anything by using your brand (ie. if it doesn't make us feel cool, or hip, or "in the know" or as if it's helping us solve a particular problem), chances are we'll find another brand that will help us feel these things.

The art and science of branding can be used to elevate ROI if you keep one simple principle in mind.....all business is showbusiness and your consumer audience is out there to be entertained. Make them feel something and design a quality product - and just wait to see the box office results.

Do you agree that principles used in Hollywood can be used to promote brands? If so, why aren't more companies capitalizing on these techniques?